Labour unveils plan to let workers push for flexible hours from day one of new job

Posted On: 
23rd February 2019

Workers would be able to request flexible hours from their first day in a new job under plans unveiled by Labour's Dawn Butler today.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Equalities Minister Dawn Butler

Under current rules, employees have to rack up 26 weeks of continuous service before they can put in a request for flexible hours.

But, speaking at Labour's Women's Conference in Telford today, the Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary will say that the existing system is holding back women and carers from entering the workplace.

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Ms Butler will say: "Women do the vast majority of unpaid care, but this must not be a barrier to women in work. That’s why I’m announcing Labour’s plans to introduce rights to flexible working from day one of employment.

"This change to the law is essential to closing the gender pay gap and dismantling the structural barriers that hold women back from promotion and progression. It may also result in more men taking on caring responsibilities themselves, finally lightening the load that women bear.

"Under Labour’s plans, no woman will be shut out of the workplace because they’re a mum or they care for a parent or a disabled loved one, or both. We need an economy that works for women, not against us."

Labour says it will legislate to create a "presumption in favour of flexible working", changing the current set-up that allows bosses to reject an annual request for a flexible working pattern as long as they do so "in a reasonable manner".

The party says firms would instead have to show that a role is not suitable for flexible working, rather than asking employees to prove that it is.

The opposition party points to findings from a recent Office for National Statistics study which shows that so-called 'sandwich carers' - those who look after young children and elderly or disabled parents - feel shut out of the workforce by a lack of flexibility.

Some 46% of women in that situation said they felt unable to work at all or as much as they would like, with the figures sitting at 35% for men. Meanwhile 28% of female sandwich carers are deemed 'economically inactive' and not classed as part of the labour market, compared to 10% for men.